Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rep Caldwell's Floor Speech

A few closing observations for the record. Thank you to all members of the House, the public and the administration who participated in making this the best bill possible, that includes everyone, even the harshest critics. Not one of us is completely comfortable with being here. A special session should be reserved for unique situations – a last option. This is not the optimum way to do the public's business.

The title of the Honolulu Star Bulletin's editorial today is "Superferry legislation makes the best of a bad situation." I would agree. Through focused leadership, the House supported a carefully crafted measure that set a firm foundation and established the necessary basics for balanced action. The Senate made several amendments. All actions we can accept.

The bill allows the ferry to sail so long as it meets certain conditions and until a full EIS is completed and accepted. No more and no less. In our lengthy joint committee hearing Monday, we received a commitment from the Governor that the protocols and conditions she adds will be
more than the Superferry wants and less than the critics desire.

Our measure also calls for an audit to determine how and why the exemption for an environmental assessment was granted. The reason is simple. We need to know what went wrong before we try to fix it legislatively or we could do more harm than good. There is a big difference between a flaw in the law and a flaw in the administration of the law. We are expecting full cooperation from the administration in completing a comprehensive review so that we can prevent something like this from happening again.

On the Supreme court decision… it's important to look beyond the Superferry at how the court decision and the social experience will change the way we do business and the way we interact with each other. There are two big takeaways from the Hawaii state supreme court decision:

First, proposed projects covered by the law must include secondary impacts when conducting an EA or EIS.

Second, the court underscored that public participation in the review process of an EA/EIS benefits all parties and society as a whole.

Therefore, going forward, the government and the private sector, in laying out plans, need to work from those assumptions, rather than play chicken with the law or the court.

Community sentiment. For a relatively compressed period of time we have heard a lot from the community during this session. Whether you agree with him or not, Maui Council Chair Riki Hokama summed it up this way in Monday's House hearing:

"When are we saying enough is enough?" and "Who are we building for?"

Those words should resound in everyone's mind. In the future they must be asked and answered, before any concrete is laid, before the new technology is introduced and before the building goes up. Are we building for quality rather than volume? Are we creating self-contained communities where people can live, work and enjoy life without continually burning away hours having to travel elsewhere? Are we using the remarkable resources of these islands in respectful stewardship? For those who say those questions are too much to ask, wait until there is a project that comes along and impacts you to see how you feel if it is planned entirely behind closed doors.

Working within these assumptions and in a community that is demanding increased transparency, we must still strive for progress and excellence in this state and not slide into backwaterism. That is why I -- and I think most of us -- supported ferry legislation in this special session.

Thank you all again.

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